Why am I doing all the initiating in my friendships?

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Candice Watters

Why am I doing all the initiating in my friendships?

Apr 07, 2015 |Candice Watters
Question

I'm trying to pursue friendships with people, both guys and girls, but I often get the feeling that they don't want to be around me. Some of that feeling may be borne out of feelings of inadequacy, but I don't know if that's all it is.

It seems to be included I have to be the one to initiate everything, and when I initiate, I feel like I'm imposing. I'm not sure how much I should initiate or if I should take a step back. I feel like if I step back, the relationships would die, and I don't want that to happen because I really like the group of people. I'm just not sure what to do.

Answer

Thank you for this question about making and keeping friends and nurturing friendships. I'm curious to know why you like this group of people especially given their lack of initiative and responsiveness to your efforts. What is it about them that draws you to them? Often we're drawn to people because they're popular, influential or entertaining. But it's also often the case that the people we think we would most enjoy being friends with don't feel the same way about us. What then?

If it's true that stepping back would equal the death of the relationships, it's probably time to look for a new group of friends. I foresee this having two possible good outcomes and one possibly painful one. The painful one is that this group will not do anything to keep the friendships going. They may walk away. This will be difficult, but also telling. If this happens, you will know they weren't invested in the friendship to begin with. Any ongoing efforts would be yours alone, with little to show for it. If this happens, it's best to know it now and move on to one or more friends who will be faithful.

The possible good outcomes are that you will be surprised and find them reaching out to you, asking why you haven't been around and if you'd like to get together. This would be ideal, to find that they really did appreciate your friendship and are willing to contribute to the relationship. The other possibility is that in their absence, you will form truer, more sincere friendships with people who also want to be friends. The second outcome, though flowing from the loss of this group, is still good in the long run.

The question is, how do you go about finding and forming a new group of friends? For starters, I think you need to lower your sights from a whole group of fast friends to one or two. And the best way to do that is to start looking for people who need friends.

I'll never forget how my dad used to encourage me to overcome my insecurity upon entering a room full of people I wanted to be my friends. It was grade school, and the cliques were subtle but no less real and no less intimidating. I always felt on the outside of the in-group and really longed to be part of the cool kids. Rather than empathize with my frustration, however, he zeroed in on my feelings. He knew I was hurting, holding back tears at the thought of feeling rejected. But he didn't let me justify them; instead he shifted my gaze from me to the other people in the room, but not the ones I wanted to be friends with. He did a jujitsu move of sorts. "When you walk into the room," he said, "look around for someone who is sitting alone. Look for the girl who looks lonely, the one no one is sitting by. Then go and sit by her."

It was a good idea in so many ways. He helped me pivot from my own feelings of inadequacy to other kids who were feeling the same way. He helped me use how I was feeling to empathize with how the other kids were feeling. And most importantly, he forced me to stop thinking about myself. This is key to finding a good friend and being a good friend. A good friend is someone who is genuinely interested in getting to know you, in appreciating who God made you to be, in wanting to help you grow and mature in godliness, and in enjoying that journey together. A good friend reciprocates kindness and transparency. Good friendships aren't one-way. They're mutually sacrificial and mutually edifying.

So ask yourself, are the people in this group doing this with you? If not, it's time to move on. Reach out to others who look like they might need a friend. I try to do this whenever I'm at church. Even in a room full of people I already know, it helps ease my insecurity to stop worrying about who I'm sitting by or who I'm not, and instead of trying to break into a group that's already having a good time, to look for brothers and sisters who are similarly on the edge looking in. Often the best conversations and beginnings of friendships are there for the one who is willing to walk over and simply say, "Hello."

I pray the Lord will guide you for your good and His glory.

Sincerely,
CANDICE WATTERS

Copyright 2015 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.

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